ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Food and Cooking»
  • Cooking Ingredients

The Reign of Rice in Hawaii

Updated on December 15, 2015

One of the most important staples in Hawaii is rice. Due to the diversity of cultures that have made Hawaii their home, rice continues to be included in home cooking, picnics, and restaurants. But, at one time there were rice fields all over the islands, and rice was exported to the mainland USA. Today, no traces remain of the once richly farmed rice paddies in Hawaii.

Rice, eggs and spam for breakfast in Hawaii at McDonald's

Chicken Long Rice and Pak Choy

Remaining rice mill in Hanalei Hawaii


Whaling was the main industry bolstering the economy of Hawaii in the early 1800s. Whale oil was used as a substitute for kerosene, which was manufactured up until the 1860s. Civil War resulted in a loss of much of the whaling fleet, so agricultural production including sugar and rice quickly dominated. Rice was second in value to sugar (from sugar cane) which was raised in the islands.

From 1860 - 1920, Rice was raised in the islands of Hawaii, particularly in Kauai and Oahu because of their abundance of rain. In Kauai, the Hanalei Valley had the highest amount of acreage planted in rice. Rice production in Hanalei actually continued up to 1960.

It was in 1850 that the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society was formed to develop Hawaii's agricultural resources. They purchased land in the Nuuanu Valley and Made Dr. H. Holstein manager over it. He planted imported rice seed from China in a former taro patch.

At first the Society offered this rice seed to anyone in Hawaii who wanted to plant it. King Kamehameha IV also offered land grants for cultivation of rice. Not too many took advantage of the offers. The drawback to raising rice was that there were no proper milling facilities in Hawaii. The first trials by Holstein produced dark unpolished rice which was unmarketable.

In 1860, A Dr. Seth Ford imported rice seed from South Carolina which was very successful and yielded a fair amount of crop. News of this success spread throughout the islands of Hawaii, and in 1861 it seemed that everyone and their uncle were excited about raising rice. Taro plantations were replaced with rice until the Hawaiians started to wonder where they were going to get their taro from (their beloved root crop which is pounded into poi).

Chinese were brought in to man the fields. By 1862 exports of rice to California grew by leaps and bounds. A treaty between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii was made in 1876. The Reciprocity Treaty granted duty-free status including rice. Hawaii rice production in 1899 placed third behind Louisiana and South Carolina. It was sent unhulled and uncleaned to be milled in San Francisco. Finally in 1862, a Seth Ford developed the first rice mill in the Hawaiian Islands which was stationed in Honolulu. By 1887 over 13 million pounds of rice were exported.

The Chinese population in Hawaii grew from 1200 in 1860 to 18,254 by 1884. In 1882 the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, so then Japanese workers were brought in to take their place. Within only five years the Japanese made up more than forty per cent of the plantation work force in Hawaii. This was the beginning of the decline of rice production in Hawaii. Japanese preferred short grain rice rather than the long grain rice the Chinese were used to eating. So rice began to be imported from California for the Japanese. Also, the hard labor techniques in Hawaii were soon overtaken by the machine technology in California.

The younger generation were not as interested in rice farming and that along with an infestation of the rice borer and a bird that ate rice, rice production in Hawaii declined and faded out. Attempts to revive rice production by the University of Hawaii in 1906 and 1933 saw a flicker of hope, but eventually died out.

Today there is only a reminder of the reign of rice in Hawaii. There is a restored Haraguchi Rice Mill in Hanalei Valley on Kauai.

Although the exportation of rice has stopped, Hawaii still loves rice, and there are so many different delicious ways to make it.

Musubi is one of the local favorites. It is easily made and taken to the beach.

Rice flour is made into delicious mochi in a rainbow of flavors and colors.

Rice is steamed. made into noodles and the flour is used to thicken soups and stews.

You never worry about left over rice because it can be made into fried rice, rice rolls and a tons of other things.


Submit a Comment

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Many people think we eat only root crops, but rice is pretty much daily fare around here for some. Asian influence I guess. Thanks pmccray for commenting.

  • pmccray profile image

    pmccray 7 years ago from Utah

    Never to old to learn. I didn't know that rice was a staple of Hawaii. Very well written piece. Rated up

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I haven't had that experience yet. Pretty funny, but then Hilo is another world (and a beautiful one at that!). I love Hilo.

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    Imagine my surprise when I ordered a hamburger in Hilo and it had rice inside the beef patty! I believe rice is a health substitute for potatoes. great hub!

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Nera. Thanks for the comments. I hope to go to visit the Philippines soon. My daughter-in-law is from there. She and the grandkids love rice more than anything else when they come.

  • Nera Woods profile image

    Nora Tamba 7 years ago

    Your photo on rice planting can be mistaken as one taken here in the Philippines, as rice is our staple food. We still plant rice that way in the provinces, although most of the related processes are already mechanized.

    Visited your Ning site. Wow, great art works!

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Nancy Zhai. You are very kind.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I guess if you eat too much rice and not enough of the other good stuff, you can get pretty chubby, and it all depends on what you put on the rice. But Asians eat it pretty much all the time and are pretty small. Thanks HealthyHanna for your comments.

  • HealthyHanna profile image

    HealthyHanna 8 years ago from Utah

    I love rice, and I love Hawaii. I have read some things lately about rice not being so good for you, but I don't believe it.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks drbj for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub about rice production in Hawaii. I love friend rice too.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 8 years ago from south Florida

    Mahalo, Elayne, for this interesting and extremely well-written hub about the history of rice in Hawaii. I chuckled when I read your line about not worrying about left-over rice. You are so right. It can always be made into something else - fried rice being one of my favorites.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Appreciate your comments Pamela99. Hope you are enjoying the summer.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Elayne, I enjoyed this hub and history your shared. Thanks.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Hello, hello and Liana K. I was surprised to find out that rice was once grown here. I just thought we had pineapple and sugar cane. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

  • LianaK profile image

    LianaK 8 years ago

    I love spam, rice and eggs for breakfast! Thanks for posting all the wonderful information about rice in Hawaii. I had no idea :)

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

    That is a wonderful, interesting piece of history. Thank you very much.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Glad you enjoyed my hub about rice in Hawaii billyaustindillon. I appreciate your comments.

  • billyaustindillon profile image

    billyaustindillon 8 years ago

    Very interesting history of rice in Hawaii - particularly the differences of short grain and long grain and the Japanese and Chinese influences.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)